Articles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

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The City of Glendale and various other parties sought to set aside the Department of the Interior's decision to accept in trust, for the benefit of the Tohono O'odham Nation, a 54-acre parcel of land known as Parcel 2. The Nation hoped to build a destination resort and casino on Parcel 2, which was unincorporated county land, entirely surrounded by the city. This appeal related the the status of the land as trust. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the government after that court concluded that the Secretary of the Interior reasonably applied the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act, Pub. L. No. 99-503, 100 Stat. 1798, and that the Act did not violate the Indian Commerce Clause or the Tenth Amendment. View "City of Glendale, et al v. United States, et al" on Justia Law

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Several Alaskan native villages (Villages) claimed they possessed non-exclusive aboriginal hunting and fishing rights in areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Gulf of Alaska. The Secretary of Commerce promulgated regulations limiting access to the halibut and sablefish fisheries. The Villages claimed that the regulations failed to account for the Villages' non-exclusive aboriginal hunting and fishing rights, without Congress's consent in violation of the federal common law and the Indian Non-Intercourse Act. The district court dismissed their complaint. The Supreme Court remanded to the district court for the purpose of determining what aboriginal rights, if any, the Villages had on the OCS. The district court held that the Villages had no nonexclusive right to hunt and fish in the OCS. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) based on the uncontested factual findings of the district court, the court did not err in concluding that the Villages failed to establish an entitlement to non-exclusive aboriginal rights on the OCS; and (2) because the Villages had not established aboriginal rights on the OCS, the Court had no occasion to consider whether there was a conflict with the federal paramountcy doctrine or whether the Secretary's actions violated the Indian Non-Intercourse Act. View "Native Village of Eyak v. Blank " on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to Abusive Sexual Contact where the victim was his wife's minor niece who had been staying with the couple. On appeal, defendant appealed his sentence of 151 months' imprisonment and the imposition of a two-level enhancement pursuant to U.S.S.G. 2A3.1(b)(3), claiming that he was not entrusted with custody, care, or supervisory control of the victim. The court held that the district court's application of the enhancement was fully supported and that court did not err in applying the enhancement in this case. View "United States v. Swank, Sr." on Justia Law

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Defendants were indicted, inter alia, for an eight-year conspiracy to violate the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA), 18 U.S.C. 2341, by trafficking in "contraband cigarettes." Defendants moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the state of Washington retroceded its cigarette taxation to the Swinomish Tribe during the period of a cigarette tax contract it entered into with the Swinomish Tribe. The court agreed with defendants that during the period from 2003 to 2005, when they were licensed to sell tobacco by the Swinomish Tribe, there were no "applicable State or local cigarette taxes" under the CCTA. The court also agreed with defendants that the five-year statute of limitations for CCTA violations barred any charges based on activity from 1999-2003. The court concluded, however, that after their tribal tobacco license expired in 2005, defendants' activities ceased to be covered by the Swinomish cigarette tax contract (CTC) and that the state's retrocession therefore ceased to apply. The unstamped cigarettes that defendants transported and sold during this period were thus "contraband" under the CCTA. The court rejected defendants' due process and treaty arguments. View "United States v. Wilbur" on Justia Law

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Two non-Indian entities brought this action to enjoin Navajo Nation tribal officials from applying tribal law to them in tribal courts. They claimed that both their contract with the tribe and federal law deprived tribal officials of authority to regulate them. At issue was whether the Navajo Nation itself was a necessary party under Rule 19. The court held that the tribe was not a necessary party because the tribal officials could be expected to adequately represent the tribe's interests in this action and because complete relief could be accorded among the existing parties without the tribe. Thus, this lawsuit for prospective injunctive relief could proceed against the officials under a routine application of Ex parte Young and should not be dismissed. View "Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power Dist., et al. v. Lee, et al." on Justia Law

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A juvenile male appealed the district court's determination that he was an "Indian" under 18 U.S.C. 1153, which provided federal criminal jurisdiction for certain crimes committed by Indians in Indian country. The juvenile claimed that he did not identify as an Indian, and was not socially recognized as Indian by other tribal members. Nonetheless, he was an enrolled tribal member, had received tribal assistance, and had used his membership to obtain tribal benefits. Therefore, because the juvenile was Indian by blood and easily met three of the most important factors used to evaluate tribal recognition laid out in United States v. Bruce, the court held that he was an "Indian" under section 1153 and upheld his conviction. View "United States v. Juvenile Male" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of robbery and aiding and abetting robbery in Indian country in violation of U.S.C. 1153(a) and 2111. On appeal, defendant contended that the government did not present sufficient evidence to establish that he was an "Indian" for purposes of prosecution under section 1153. The court disagreed and held that, in light of all the evidence presented at trial, a reasonable trier of fact could have found that defendant was an Indian. Therefore, the court affirmed defendant's conviction. View "United States v. Labuff" on Justia Law

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The Tribes of the Yakima Nation claimed that the principle of Indian tax immunity had been violated by the State of Washington's current cigarette excise tax, which the Tribes argued left their retailers liable for payment of the tax when retailers sold cigarettes to non-Indians. The court held that, although some elements of Washington's cigarette tax law had been modified over the past thirty years, the court concluded that none of those changes had materially altered the legal incidence of the cigarette tax approved of in Confederated Tribes of Colville Indian Reservation v. Washington. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the state. View "Confederated Tribes and Bands, et al. v. Gregoire, et al." on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, respondents appealed the district court's order granting petitioner's, an enrolled member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, amended petition for writ of habeas corpus. At issue was whether the Indian Civil Rights Act, 25 U.S.C. 1302(7), prohibited the tribal court from imposing consecutive sentences cumulatively exceeding one year for multiple criminal violations arising from a single criminal transaction. The court held that section 1302(7) unambiguously permitted tribal courts to impose up to a one-year term of imprisonment for each discrete criminal violation. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court. View "Miranda v. Braatz, et al" on Justia Law

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Blue Lake Rancheria, an Indian tribe, sought a refund of Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), 26 U.S.C. 3306(c)(7), taxes paid by Mainstay Business Solutions (Mainstay), an employee leasing company wholly owned by the Tribe. At issue was the scope of section 3306(c)(7)'s exception from "employment" and also at issue was whether Mainstay was the common law employer of its leased employees. The court held that the services performed "in the employ of an Indian tribe" were excepted from FUTA's definition of "employment" by section 3306(c)(7) only where a tribe or its instrumentality was a common law employer of the worker performing the services. The court held that because Mainstay was a common law employer of its leased employees during the years in question, it was not required to pay FUTA taxes with respect to those employees. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to enter judgment for the Tribe. View "Blue Lake Rancheria, et al. v. United States" on Justia Law